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Sunday, December 9, 2012

Hirscher comes out winner from snowy Val D'Isere

The weather hasn't been very kind with Val D'Isere in the past years, as last year they were had been forced to call the event off because of the lack of snow, whilst this year they had to work very hard for the massive snowfall that hit the French resort in the past few days. Because of this they were forced to switch the normal order of the races, having the slalom done first and then the GS, with the former done almost by night in order to have more time to prepare the slope.
The result was better than expected, but both races obviously had been little signed by the odd conditions of the snow.

Pinturault first win on home soil.

Because of the snowfall and the delay of the start to early afternoon, together with the difficulty of the slope made the slalom very thrilling as the result of each run was uncertain and very spectacular.
In the first run a lot of emotions went on with Austrian young talent Marcel Hirscher leading the team-mate Manfred Pranger, who exploited his expereince and his talent to snatch that 2nd place despite the bad slope's conditions when he went down with bib 11. A group of three athlets from the top group were following with Neureuther, Gross and Deville one after the other. Another great surprise had been done by Pinturault, who was 6th despite the 16 on her bib and the few training under his belt - because of the injury occurred in the fall.
Despite the big bumps created by the passage of the athlets on the soft snow quite a few guys could qualify for the second run even with high numbers: Austrian Feller was even 16th with number 50.
In the second run American Chodounsky took advantage of being the first on track and kept gaining places for a long with Slovak suprise Adam Zampa following close (the two would eventually finish 15th and 16th).
But it was Austrian Wolfgang Hoerl who made the real comeback of the day, by scoring what will eventually be the 2nd best time of the run, he rose from 26th to 9th place.
Moelgg and Ligety did quite a nice job in the second run as well, but it was the Swedish duo of Myhrer and Byggmark that impressed the most as the two by risking a lot in their attacking run could first stop Hoerl raise and then start their own. Jens, who had done half a miracle in the first run already by skiing the whole run without a pole lost on start, had fire burining in his eyes, but a couple of mistakes cost him the lead over the team-mate. The two finished right at the feet of the podium 4th and 5th.
The one who stopped them was the eventual winner of the race, Alexis Pinturault, who skied out of his mind, as if there were no signs or bumps on the course. He scored the best time of the run and hardly anyone could get any close: one by one every racer start to fall behind him in the final standing with Neureuther being the only one able to stay relatively close to him, half a second away and eventually 2nd.
Manfred Pranger, who was second after the first half, completely lost the plot in the second section of the race and finished 6th, while Hirscher's big mistakes cost his leadership and for a little he hasn't lost the podium at all, but he could still finish 3rd.

Hirscher wins the first race for Austrian team

Of course Austria can't always win, but when it's middle December and the only win for the Wunderteam arrived from ladies the pressure on the guys start to be big. None could expect that Ligety would suddenly drop his terrific form and lose the first GS of the season, but the weird snow conditions, the shortened GS and the very tight gates surely mixed the cards on the table.
The first run had already been very unpredictable with the protagonists of last night's slalom again on top as Hirscher was leading after the first run with a very small gap over Pinturault and Neureuther was 5th. Of course the short distance between the gates would have advataged the young slalomists, but still a few veterans could find their way to stay close as Benjamin Raich was 4th, Ligety 6th and Blardone 8th.
The second run was again marked by a few athlets exploiting the better slope give by an early start, this time, though, the surprise was even bigger as German Stefan Luitz, 25th after the first run, at his 3rd top 30 appearance in World Cup led the race as far as finishing just a step away from the victory. His run was something of rare quality, since he was even behind Roberto Nani -who was leading the race at the moment- by the middle, but then he found a great sequence of gates, a perfect one actually and finished ahead of the Italian. None in the craziest of his dreams might have thought of it, but the young German started to climb the ranking step by step and each position he won, you could see an amazed and thrilled smile growing on his face.
Nani gained a lot of positions too, finishing for the first time in the top 10, 10th actually.
The fight for the first places started with a brave run by Svindal who used his great power to tame the bumps of the course, but it wasn't enough to better Luitz's time but enough to go from 11th to 6th.
Italian Max Blardone, who hadn't finish out of the podium here for a three seasons, tried his best to make his streak longer, but he had to surrender to the German too, but the podium didn't finish that far as he was 5th at the end.
Ligety of course was rather daunted after his first disappointing run and wanted to make up in the second run, he tried everything and he was the first one to gain some advantage to Luitz in the first part, but then a couple of bad mistakes set him beck and prevented him from stopping Luitz's raise. Ted eventually was 3rd, which of course feels rather tight for his standards, so we'll see for sure him angry for victory in Badia next week.
A solid run from Neureuther gave him the first top 5 finish in GS in his carreer (previously a 13th placement had been his best result, that's the reason of his high bib -36-). Sadly for him, Raich couldn't find the same flawless run he had in the first run and even if he didn't make many mistakes, he seemed to never finish the turns and that made him accumulate hundreds on hundreds every gate; 25th his final placement.
When Pinturault started the crowd went crazy and his brave attitude wouldn't but grow the hopes the French public had for a back to back win from him. It seemed already done, only a few gates were missing before he could cross the finish line with a reassuring advantage, but he let his focus decrease and his boot touched the snow making him fall.
Hirscher knew his worst opponent had fallen and his advantage was big enough to be administrated and so he did, he didn't take many risks and so he could finally secure his first win of the season and end the seasonal drought for the Austrian team.



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